What Do Sheep Have To Do With Chemotherapy? Everything.

Daod winces each time he shifts his thin frame on the sleeping mat. There isn’t much padding between his bones and the cool concrete floor below.

Daod is 17. He lives in Mosul, is a big fan of Lionel Messi and loves to watch prank shows on TV. And he’s been fighting cancer for the last three years.

Daod and his mother lived on the west side of Mosul when he was diagnosed with cancer. For two years he received chemotherapy at the local hospital. If you’re doing the math…yes, that means he received cancer treatment under ISIS. It’s probably not a story that gets told very often. Along with their renown violence, ISIS carried on with the civil services provided in any functional community. They collected trash, levied taxes, issued marriage certificates and vehicle license plates, and continued to run some medical facilities for the residents of their “caliphate”.

Daod was doing fairly well while getting treatments. Liberation from ISIS was a mixed blessing for him. His freedom came at the cost of the hospital where he received treatments—it was bombed and destroyed by Coalition forces.

In the months between when his hospital was bombed and when he and his mother were able to escape to his aunt’s house in east Mosul, Daod went without chemotherapy. In fact, he went without any health care at all.

Zahraa is Daod’s aunt. She doesn’t fuss too much when we come in to visit. Even though it’s early, it’s already hot. And because she’s fasting for Ramadan, her energy is low. We sit in her front room with our backs against the wall and talk about sheep.

You provided Zahraa with a flock of sheep earlier this year—four ewes and two rams. She immediately showed her flair for maximizing your investment when she sold the two rams and bought four more ewes with the proceeds.

In the spring, when grass was plentiful, she got enough milk from her ewes to make and sell homemade yogurt and cheese. In the heat of the summer, with little grass on the field and just enough milk production for her own family’s needs, she will breed her ewes with a neighbour’s ram, then sell the lambs. With two lambing seasons a year, Zahraa will get the bulk of her income twice a year and milk production for her ewes will remain high.

It’s essential for Zahraa to make an income. She lost her husband to cancer and has five children to look after. And now there are two more under her roof—Zahraa’s sister-in-law and her nephew, Daod.

When Daod and his mother were able to flee west Mosul, they found shelter with Zahraa. Sheep allows Zahraa to host extra family members, and allows her to provide fresh yogurt for breakfast each morning.

Sheep help Zahraa provide a refuge for her nephew—a safe place to live while he starts his cancer treatments again with a new doctor.

It wasn’t very long ago that Zahraa had few resources, and now she is in a position to serve.

Sheep did that.

You and Zahraa did that.


Help families in Mosul remake their world.